It is not a leap. It is not a stride. It is not a jump.
It is acceptance of reality and a willingness “to take life by the horns.”
The latter are not our words. They come from one who has talked the talk, walked the walk and thankfully is now talking the walk, one heading directly toward abstenance and recovery with a willingness to use his plight as a lesson for others.
He is James Giles, a Bradley County resident who started abusing inhalants at age 14 and continued on his path of self-destruction for 18 unhappy years. He got a grip only when death almost laid its icy grip on him.
Giles spoke recently as a featured guest at a drug-awareness forum sponsored by the Hiwassee Mental Health Center and Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors, also known as the GRAAB Coalition.
Although his heartbreaking, and heartwarming, presentation came in September, the Giles story came as a timely prelude to GRAAB’s “31 Days of Prevention” which is now beyond its halfway point. This annual initiative is a substance abuse public awareness campaign held throughout the month of October.
We believe Giles, who survived a suicide attempt that was spawned by his substance abuse addiction, said it best in the opening of his thought-provoking testimonial.
False highs inspired by store-bought chemicals — in his case inhalants such as paint — are not the answer, he stressed. In a former day, it would have been called “putting your foot down.”
Giles told his captivated audience, “You’ve just got to get sick and tired of being sick and tired. You’ve got to come to the realization that you have to take life by the horns and live it or you lay down and die.”
He has been “clean” now for 13 marvelous years. But before taking his first step toward recovery, he took a terrifying plunge ... a pre-planned jump from a utility tower that should have taken his life.
But it didn’t.
It left him maimed, debilitated and near death. Yet he lived. It was then he understood — perhaps for the first time — the impact on loved ones of such reckless actions.
In his mind, he was supposed to die. Instead, his broken bones led to broken hearts ... of those who loved him dearly and who had tried to help him through his addiction at times when he needed help the most.
But he rejected their love, justifying in his chemically clouded mind that they were the problem, not his addiction.
He spoke of the moment he awoke in the hospital two days after his suicide attempt.
“My mother and my grandmother were standing over me crying. I’d never seen them in that condition before and this is really when the realization of 18 years of me doing drugs — how selfish, inconsiderate and self-centered I was. I never thought about the consequences it was having on my family, my loved ones, people who were praying, people sitting up nights wondering where I was or what I was doing, if I was dead or in jail for killing someone. I came to the realization I was doing it to myself and to my family.”
Embarrassed and ashamed, it was then Giles committed to getting clean.
Was the decision of his own choosing? “Yes” and “No.” He decided, but only after seeing for himself the effect of his rollercoaster lifestyle on those whose love for him came unconditionally.
Does it matter? No. For those struggling with substance abuse, the reason for getting clean is far outweighed by the simple need to get clean.
It’s that simple.
It’s that necessary.
James Giles is one in a legion to enter the abyss. He is one of countless thousands to escape its terror. He is one of many to step forward in an incredible show of passion to help lead others into the light.
James Giles is a survivor.
He is the epitome of what the GRAAB Coalition’s “31 Days of Prevention” is all about.
We urge those with such addictions, and those without, to learn more by visiting www.graabcoalition.com.